The defense had two primary objectives heading into Friday’s game.
“We talked about coming in here that our effort to the ball was going to improve and our tackling was going to improve,” said defensive coordinator Billy Davis. “The effort to the ball was there and the tackling wasn’t where it needs to be yet.”
The tackling left plenty to be desired, as the the running back duo of LeGarrette Blount and Stevan Ridley romped for a combined 193 yards and three touchdowns on just 19 carries. That’s north of 10 yards per clip. Part of that has to do with players abandoning their gaps; part of it is growing pains as the team adjusts to a new scheme. But the poor tackling was a big factor as well.
Chip Kelly has not run a particularly physical training camp. And while there has been some occasional tackling to the ground during individual drills, typically the players are asked to thud — or simulate tackling without bringing the ball carrier down.
Is it tough to just flip the switch?
“It’s a totally different mindset,” said Kurt Coleman. “We’ve gone wrap-up and it is what it is, it gives you good form but when you go live and it’s a totally different beast. And you saw guys — I remember Mychal [Kendricks] came down and smacked the running back [Blount] and kind of bounced off him, that’s the kind of stuff you can’t prepare for when you just thud it up.”
“It’s the first preseason game and this was really the first time we were actually live tackling, but there are no excuses for anything,” added Nate Allen, who had his share of struggles Friday. “We just have a lot to get better on.”
This is not a new issue for this defense. The Eagles missed a tackle on 8.5 percent of their plays in 2012, the highest mark in the league according to Football Outsiders.
It needs to be kept in mind that this was only the first exhibition game and drawing sweeping conclusions based off preseason play is never a good idea. But there is definitely a lot of work that lies ahead for this unit.
“That’s what the preseason is about — seeing who we are and where we are and how far we have to go,” said Davis. “And we’ve got a ways to go right now.”
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